Bad powers. Bad mojo. Something sinister afoot. That old black magic your grandfather warned you about with a faint twinkle in his eye… Such is the tone of the debut by New York quartet Bad Powers. It has an intensity driven solely by its open possibilities.
Y’see, Bad Powers came to be out of an unstoppable trajectory, forming from an energy and heightened creativity for former Made Out of Babies members guitarist Brendan Tobin, bassist Cooper and drummer Matthew Egan finding a vital force in pairing with vocalist Megan Tweed (also of The Family Curse). Where MOoB was strictly aggressive pummeling and vocal histrionics, Bad Powers eviscerates with a post-punk subtlety that embraces innovative sounds and instrumentation. Hell, there are even synths and a string section on the album, along with many other special guests. It’s smartly brutal, like getting your ass handed to you by Joy Division.
“We no longer felt the same about song writing (structure, intent, complexity, tone),” Tobin explains about the band’s breakdown in writing with their former singer. “Once Megan was in place it all suddenly felt right.” The new band found a rejuvenated excitement recording a wellspring of new songs at Tobin’s Brooklyn studio, Ice Cream Audio (originally built for the recording of MOoB’s third album, The Ruiner and later going on to record bands like Emanuel and the Fear and Titan.)
From the first palm-muted guitar notes and rupturing bass and drum jabs of album opener “New Bruises” there’s an urgency and freshness to the band’s sound that transcends genre trappings. Tweed, sounding vaguely reminiscent of Uzi/Live Skull/Come howler Thalia Zedek, barrels in with rasping, urgent bite. Slithering synths courtesy of Zombi‘s Steve Moore coil and strangulate as the band moves in for the kill. Elsewhere, “Eves and Eyes” tiptoes in beneath a chorus of suspense-building violin and cello tremolos as the band slowly builds to gale-force riff. “Bread and Butter” finds Tweed harmonizing with guest vocalist and esteemed composer Lisa Papineau (Air, Big Sir) on the chorus, “too tired to satisfy” as guitars, bass and drums twist and churn alongside the squealing string section. On “Millennium”, Bad Powers sound like a post-punk spy movie with guest vocalist Eugene Robinson (Oxbow) leading the charge. Throughout the album, Egan and Cooper seem to have developed a new language for their unique brand of tension building and explosive release, while Tobin’s guitar attack has become alternately icy and syrupy as it fills in all the gaps in unexpected ways. At times, Tweed wails with the fury of legendary Gits singer Mia Zapata and other times she intones with the rich confidence of Zola Jesus’ Nika Danilova or Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Altogether, Bad Powers is a new and ominous beast.
“Every time I say the band name I think of some sort of nasty club or gang of bratty kids,” Tobin says, perhaps most fittingly describing Bad Powers thusly: “Equally into junk food, health food, cutting, mysticism, cartoons, French films, breaking stuff and making stuff. Like a creepy, dysfunctional, scabby Justice League who all read Aleister Crowley.”